Eric Holder and the Justice Department Probe Shooting of Teen Michael Brown

U.S. attorney general launches civil rights investigation into fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, by police officer.
16:38 | 09/04/14

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Transcript for Eric Holder and the Justice Department Probe Shooting of Teen Michael Brown
Developing now in the wake of the shooting of Michael brown and Ferguson Missouri. The Justice Department is set to announce a civil rights investigation. Into the police department in that town. Good afternoon everyone I'm -- -- in New York the US attorney general Eric Holder is about to hold a news conference in just a short time from now. Announcing the very latest steps from the Obama administration in this you were called on August 9 eighteen year old Michael Brown an unarmed teen. -- shot six times a by a police officer and Ferguson Missouri killing him and now. The attorney general is announcing details of an investigation into that police departments conduct let's listen in. Hopefully civil rights division -- -- and the director Ron Davis of the Community Oriented Policing Services over the cops office. We -- here today to announce the latest steps in the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to address the situation in Ferguson Missouri. And -- surrounding communities. Now as you know our federal civil rights investigation into the August 9 shooting. Death of Michael Brown remains open and remains very active. As -- made clear during my visit to Ferguson two weeks ago this investigation. Will take time but the American people can have confidence that it will be fair it will be thorough and it will be independent. Over the course -- that visit I had a chance to speak with a number of local residents. -- heard from them directly about the deep mistrust that has taken hold between law enforcement officials and members of that community. In meetings as well as in listening sessions as well as informal conversations. People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents from the general policing practices. And from a lack of diversity on the for -- police force. These anecdotal accounts underscore the history of mistrust of law enforcement and Ferguson it has received a good deal of attention. As a result of this history and following extensive review documented. Allegations and other available data. We have determined that there is a caught there's cause for the Justice Department open. An investigation to determine whether Ferguson police officials have engaged in -- pattern or practice of violations of the United States constitution. Or federal law. This investigation will be carried out by -- from the civil rights division special litigation section. Some of the -- dedicated professionals who have achieved -- historic results in ensuring constitutional policing from coast to coast. Over the past five years the civil rights division is prosecuted over 300 individual offices for misconduct. We have opened twenty pattern or practice investigations in to police departments. Across the country. That's more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five years. And we're enforcing fourteen agreements to reform law enforcement practices -- agencies both large and small. With these agreements we have seen dramatic decreases in -- of uses of force. -- equity in the delivery of police services including important measures to address biased. And most significantly increase confidence by communities in the air law enforcement agencies. -- -- -- -- the brother of retired police officer I know that the overwhelming majority of our brave men and women in uniform to their jobs honorable. They do them with integrity and often at great personal risk. The civil rights division's efforts or simply meant to ensure that law enforcement officers and in every part of the United States live up to those -- high standards. Professionalism. In Ferguson our investigation will assess the police department's use of force including debt reports. -- will analyze stops searches and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson's city jail. In addition to other potentially discriminatory policing techniques and tactics that have been brought to light. We have met with the mayor the city manager and the police chief in Ferguson. It welcomes this investigation and they have pledged there complete cooperation. This investigation will be conducted both rigorously and in a timely manner so we can move forward as expeditiously as possible -- sort trust. -- -- understanding and -- Foster cooperation between law enforcement. And community members. The same time I want to make very clear that as this investigation unfolds and as it. He evolves we will follow the facts and law wherever they -- And -- at any point we find reason to expand our inquiry to include additional police forces in neighboring jurisdictions. We will not hesitate to do so. In fact -- can also announced today that above and beyond our investigation. In Ferguson. We are taking proactive steps to engage -- Saint Louis county police department in what is known as a collaborative reform effort. This partnership is being led by the cops -- working closely with the Saint Louis county officials to conduct a comprehensive assessment. Saint Louis county police chief has voluntarily. Accepted the collaborative reform process. And has also asked that the cops office conducting an after action report on -- response to recent demonstrations. And already with the cooperation of Saint Louis county leaders we have identified priority areas for intensive review and technical assistance. Including racial profiling. Stops. Searches frisking. The handling of mass demonstrations by police officials and law enforcement training both at the police academy in -- the continuing professional level. -- Saint Louis county ministers training programs for officers throughout the area including members of the Ferguson. Police department it makes sense to include the county police department. As part of our comprehensive approach to confronting the challenges that we've seen. In that region. Now I want to be clear this is not stop god gap quarry short term solution. The -- long term strategy. Founded on community policing that will provide a really detailed roadmap to build trust. To bolster public safety to ensure accountability. To change the way that law enforcement leaders make decisions and implement policies. And -- community partnerships. And our track record proves that such efforts to reform policing practices can be tremendously successful. For example -- 2012 the cops office -- Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department completed. An eight month review similar to the collaboration -- we are launching today. With the Saint Louis county police department. The Las Vegas review resulted in 75 findings in concrete recommendations recording. Officer involved shootings in other use of force issues. To date fully 95%. Of these recommendations. Have been adopted. And police agencies -- two other jurisdictions are going through similar prostheses. As we speak. And when I visited Ferguson two weeks ago I promise that the United States Department of Justice would continue to stand with the people -- Long after the national headlines head -- Stay with our investigation into the Ferguson police department and -- reform efforts in Saint Louis county. We're taking significant steps towards keeping that promise. As these efforts unfold my colleagues and I'll keep working with the people and Ferguson to ensure that -- fair thorough investigation occurs. To see that dialogue can be translated into concrete action. And to facilitate lasting positive change that brings together public officials civil rights leaders and members of the public. To bridge gaps and also to build understanding. That's -- always -- but I know that together we can and we will meet this challenge. Now before we move to questions there have been court decisions announced today in two separate but very important cases -- which I'd like to briefly comment. First we are pleased that the district court in New Orleans has found that the largest oil spill in United States history was caused by. BP's gross negligence and willful misconduct. The court's findings will ensure that the company is held fully accountable for its recklessness this case which was vigorously pursued by the United States has. I think stellar legal team marks another significant step forward in the Justice Department's continuing efforts. To seek justice on behalf of the American people for this disaster. And we are confident that this decision will serve as a strong deterrent. Anyone who was tempted to sacrifice safety and the environment in the pursuit of profit. Sect in Ohio. -- district court has held at the plaintiffs challenge challenging the state of -- changes to its. In person early voting rules likely will be able to prove that those changes are in fact. Unconstitutional. Justice Department has filed eight statement of interest in this case. And today's outcome represents a milestone in our effort to continue to protect voting rights. Even after the supreme court's deeply misguided decision in Shelby county. -- please note that today's decision. And the judge's analysis rests on some of the same legal reasoning that underlies -- Departments pending challenges to voting measures and Texas as well as in North Carolina. Under section two of the voting rights act. And as we move forward my colleagues and I will continue to do everything in our power to aggressively defend access to the ballot box. And twin sure that every American -- can exercise his or her right to participate in the democratic process unencumbered by unnecessary restrictions that discouraged discriminate forth -- distant franchise. And with that we would be when it happens take your questions be. Okay we'll continue to live stream this news conference where the attorney general Eric Holder is taking. Questions from the press there about this investigation that was just open up by the DOJ in regards to the police department Ferguson Missouri the location. Where that eighteen year old Michael Brown was shot and killed. On August 9. I want to bring art ABC correspondent illegal -- riots this talk about some of the details of its investigation. Ryan this a pretty aggressive step from the Obama administration how big of a decision is this it's a very big one and as you heard him say. They brought more investigations like this than the previous administration almost by double but this is a big deal because you're not just talking about looking into what happened and Ferguson. You're talking about analyzing police departments all over Saint Louis county and in that area and that's big. In fact sources say that one police department is come forward and said yes please come and take a look at us. To try to evaluate some of the problems and issues we may be having so. I think it's a bold aggressive move. And I think it's designed to show the community. That hate even though you may not have confidence in the department. Hopefully we will do this analysis we will find out what's happening and then possibly implement changes that will give you confidence again. In Ferguson police department and other surrounding police department you bring up an excellent point Arafat that this does focus not just solely on Ferguson but on other departments as well. What exactly will they be looking for than any kind of pattern of racial profiling. That's going to be the key that's when you when you try to find a civil rights violation. You're looking for a pattern of misconduct so. He heard him talk about how they'd be looking it searches how they'd be looking at conduct in prisons and jails in the areas. And how they'd be looking -- use of force from different officers there have been a number of lawsuits filed against the Ferguson police department. For some some pretty shocking claims things like pistol whipping kids and things of that nature now are those claims are true or not remain to be seen but when you look at these kinds of things. They're going to look at the different patterns that have existed in different types of conduct and if they do find there's a pattern of -- conduct. They'll bring a civil suit against them and a lot of times. Then what happens is either of the case -- goes forward to trial or there's some sort of settlement and on occasion federal oversight so. These things. If a found to -- the if found to exist could end up resulting in wide ranging changes officer Darren Wilson was -- officer that was involved in Michael -- shooting how closely than. -- his specific actions be considered. In in this sort of wider investigation -- -- fact that there is another investigation that's running parallel specifically to. That case -- I think what's gonna happen is it's gonna be considered as one of the other -- -- -- -- group of cases that might be an issue here for the federal government. So the federal government will take all this into account so in a sense. That issue would Darren Wilson will be considered just like any other issues are claims of misconduct and then. The look at all of that as a whole and try to see if there's a pattern that exists. But remember this case is different as I think he said different from the investigation into officer Wilson these are two different investigations one is. DT use excessive force so we'll be looking at that is -- -- -- here is their pattern of misconduct in the police department itself and surrounding departments so. I think his case will be used as one of a large group of information to decide if in fact the police departments have been doing some. Misconduct. Michael Brown the eighteen year old that was shot and killed his juvenile record has been sought after by many media outlets. What has been the decision on that has that been released and made public well that has been released and so now what we're finding out is that Michael Brown did not have a criminal record. Or anything of that nature and that's going to be critical in a case like this because. It was interesting this officer Wilson who. Shot Michael Brown the talk has been well did he know that there was something going on in the area. That necessitated him to stop and you some sort of force on Michael Brown it turns out that he didn't. But if you thought that for some reason this young man had some sort of negative criminal background maybe it lends itself to something in -- case. But now that's been -- out there it's tough to see how Michael Brown would have brought any sort of aggressive action on himself. Now the police have always alleged in this case that he was aggressive with the officer reaching for his weapon and -- that's part of this case all of that has to be sorted out. As the criminal case if there is one goes forward against the officer but for now it's interesting to show that Michael Brown did not have any sort of criminal record. And let me ask -- that for that larger case there's just been announced today by attorney general Eric Holder then could that particular. Investigation that's being conducted again outsiders the first -- police department but other police departments in Saint Louis county. What kind of a national implication could that have. I think it puts everybody on watch and it makes other police departments say. Hey if we've got -- things going on and our department. We need to make sure it's cleaned up so we don't have on our hands a situation like they had in Ferguson and I was very important that the attorney general mentioned. That he is the brother of a retired police officer. And that he knows that many police officers out there are doing the right thing and are doing positive things in their community and are not. Taking action that could be considered misconduct he wanted to make that point to say look we're taking an analysis of this particular area. And one of the big reasons for him was because the public had been dissatisfied. With their police departments and and had developed a sort of miss trust and that's not something you can have but police officers who are really dared to be. Protecting and serving the environment so I think on a national scale. You'll see other police departments look at this case and look at previous cases that have been brought by beyond. But the Justice Department and say look we need to get our ducks in a row inmates -- officers are properly trained. And make sure that we're weeding out any sort of misconduct. To make sure they're not looking at us in the future a lot of scrutiny just -- -- outside a Ferguson Missouri ABC's Ryan Smith for the latest on that right thanks so much appreciated after always. And of course you can keep up with the story in real time by downloading ABC news happened starting this story for exclusive updates on the go. For now I'm -- that's where New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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